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Oil Company Astroturf Rallies

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Hard on the heels of the health care protests, another citizen movement seems to have sprung up, this one to oppose Washington’s attempts to tackle climate change. But behind the scenes, an industry with much at stake — Big Oil — is pulling the strings.

The event on Tuesday was organized by a group called Energy Citizens, which is backed by the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s main trade group. Many of the people attending the demonstration were employees of oil companies who work in Houston and were bused from their workplaces.

This was the first of a series of about 20 rallies planned for Southern and oil-producing states to organize resistance to proposed legislation that would set a limit on emissions of heat-trapping gases, requiring many companies to buy emission permits. Participants described the system as an energy tax that would undermine the economy of Houston, the nation’s energy capital.

[Click to continue reading Oil Companies Back Public Protests of Greenhouse Gas Bill – NYTimes.com]

Opposing climate change legislation, how forward thinking!

One such group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity went as far as having their PR agency forge letters from non-profit groups and sending them to Congress. They’ve been caught, and are attempting to blame a “temporary worker”. Uhh, yeah, right.

A public relations firm hired by a pro-coal industry group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, recently sent at least 58 letters opposing new climate laws to members of Congress. An investigation by the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming found that a total of 13 letters sent by the firm, Bonner & Associates, were forgeries. The committee is currently investigating another 45 letters to determine whether they are fakes. The letters purported to be from groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Hispanic organizations.

Industrial Temple

Mother Jones has more:

Rep. Ed Markey’s Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming has released a new batch of bogus letters sent to members of Congress by Bonner & Associates, including one the DC-based PR and lobbying firm previously told the committee was genuine but admitted on Monday was also a fake. The letters claim to be from representatives of local senior citizens groups concerned that climate change legislation will drive up energy costs for the elderly in an already “volatile economy.”

Founded in 1984 by Jack Bonner, a former GOP Senate aide and Republican National Committee staffer, the company specializes in Astroturf campaigns—efforts to create the illusion of grassroots support around the positions of its corporate clients. The firm accomplishes this by, among other things, convincing citizens, nonprofits, and others to sign letters to lawmakers in support or opposition to various issues.

Markey’s committee has been investigating the falsified letters since late July. According to a release issued by the committee on Monday:

The five letters revealed today brings the total number of fraudulent letters to 13, now representing 9 different community groups. The letters released today were staged to appear as if they were sent by groups representing senior citizen services like the non-profit Erie Center on Health & Aging. Previous letters already made public were from the Charlottesville NAACP chapter, Creciendo Juntos, a hispanic advocacy organization, the Jefferson Area Board on Aging, and the American Association of University Women.

In a statement, Markey drew parallels between advocacy efforts to derail health care reform and those opposing global warming legislation. “We’ve seen fear-mongering with our nation’s senior citizens with health care, and now we’re seeing fraud-mongering with senior citizens on clean energy,” he said. “Lately, democratic debate has been deceptively debased by fake facts and harsh rhetoric. We must return to an honest discussion of the issues, and ensure that this sort of campaign does not further poison the well of trustworthy debate.”

[Click to continue reading Bonner’s Latest Astroturf Admission (Plus More Fake Letters) | Mother Jones]

Be Right Back

as does Talking Points Memo

But a closer look suggests a culture at Bonner and Associates that makes such deception all but inevitable. As one former employee put it, at Bonner, distortion “was the norm rather than the exception.”

Internal Bonner documents obtained by TPMmuckraker, and interviews with former employees, shed light on the modus operandi of a firm that’s known as the pioneer of astroturf lobbying — that is, creating the illusion of grassroots support for corporate-backed positions, just as corporate-backed groups like Freedom Works are currently doing in their fight against health-care reform. Bonner’s business model involves using both carrots and sticks in spurring low-paid and poorly-trained employees to convince local groups or individual voters to agree to offer nominal expressions of support for the campaigns of the firm’s corporate clients, which have included Philip Morris, the health insurance industry, and the pharmaceutical industry, among others. Often the voters or local groups know little about the legislation at hand, which is typically obscure to all but the industries affected by it — medical liability reform, say. But the resulting form letters, faxes, or phone calls are then represented to a list of targeted lawmakers — generally drawn up by the client — as genuine expressions of grassroots concern. Bonner then satisfies its client by reporting back to it on the number of communications it’s generated.

[Click to continue reading Behind The Forged Letters: Jack Bonner’s “White-Collar Sweatshop” | TPMMuckraker]

and much more on Bonner and Associates if you’re interested.

You would think such transparently false campaigns would be ineffective once exposed, but apparently Senators and Members of Congress are easily fooled, and don’t have time in their busy schedules of lobbyist dinners and fund-raising luncheons to read much news.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 20th, 2009 at 8:02 am

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